Islam in the Balkans. Religion and Society between Europe and the Arab World

Harry T. Norris


To Karen


Land of Albania! where Iskander rose,

Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,

And he his name-sake, whose oft-baffled foes

Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprize:

Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes

On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men!

The cross descends, thy minarets arise,

And the pale crescent sparkles in the glen,

Through many a cypress grove within each city's ken.


(From Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)






I have to thank a large number of people for their help to me over the writing of this book. In the first instance I have to thank Christopher Hurst and Michael Dwyer for agreeing to its publication and for their encouragement to write it specifically on the Balkans with a wide scope for general discussion. They have also been most kind in allowing me ample time to complete it.


Secondly, I would particularly like to thank several libraries for their help and thoughtful service in searching for and obtaining the books and journals that I needed, often through inter-library loan. Apart from the libraries of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in the University of London, I owe a very special debt to Saffron Walden Library (my local library), in whose Society I am proud to be a member. Over a number of years, the staff have gone to uncommon lengths to search for rarities and to correct inadequate references on my part. So great has been their help, and that of the library staff elsewhere whom they contacted, that it would not be incorrect to claim that this book (I accept full responsibility for its shortcomings) is an example of what can be achieved through making maximum use of the facilities that the inter-library lending system offers today in the United Kingdom — all this through the dedication of library staff. Help from other libraries in the matter of photographs of manuscripts is acknowledged individually.


My special thanks are due to Fereshteh Hancock for her help in ensuring the final textual accuracy of this work. I also have to thank many academic colleagues and friends in the Balkan countries for their help. In Sarajevo I particularly wish to thank Professor Svetozar Koljević, the late Dr Džemal Ćehajić, Dr M. Maglajlić who gave up his time to show my wife and myself so much of his once splendid city, and Miss Azra Kadić, librarian at the Gazi Husrevbegova Biblioteka, working in the once unique collection of Oriental manuscripts. I also wish to thank the library staff in the Dubrovnik archives. Dr Rade Božović at Belgrade University, the Imam of Ohrid, Ramadani Ramadan of the Islamska Zajednica and his former colleague M. Shehu in Struga were likewise helpful. In Bucharest I wish to acknowledge the advice of Professor N. Anghelescu and her husband Dr M. Anghelescu, and in Sofia of Dr Evgeni Radushev and Dr Stojanka Kenderova. I would also thank the Revd Baba Rexhebi of the Baktāshī tekke in Detroit for sending me







copies of his valuable books, and the Revd Arthur E. Liolin, Chancellor of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America, in Boston, who has helped me with useful information regarding Longfellow, Skanderbeg and the Persian studies of Bishop Fan Noli. I would also thank Dr Alexander Lopošić of Reading University and Dr Ian Netton of Exeter University. A debt is owed to my friend Dr Muammad Mūfākū of the Universities of Prishtinë (Kosovo) and Yarmouk (Jordan). Although at the date of writing we have not had an opportunity to meet in person, we have been in regular correspondence for several years, and his Arabic writings on Albanian and Balkan Islamic topics are discussed and quoted throughout the book. He is himself a Syrian-Albanian, and has probably undertaken more research into the writers in Arabic from among the Albanian diaspora in the Middle East than any other scholar. His name is known in the Gulf, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, and Tiranë as well as in Novi Pazar and other Islamic centres in former Yugoslavia. It is a pleasure to make his writings better known in the West through this book.


Three members of the staff at SO AS have been of special help to me: Mr Paul Fox with the photographs; Mrs Catherine Lawrence who kindly drew the maps; and Mrs Mary O’Shea who gallantly typed and retyped the entire text for me. I cannot repay her kindness, thoughtfulness and constant encouragement.




This book was completed at a time when the Muslim community in Bosnia and Hercegovina was being subjected to ruthless assault, slaughter and expulsion through a ‘cleansing’ operation by Serbian irregulars and ex-members of the Yugoslav army. This has brought about a grevious loss of life, and considerable destruction and desecration of Muslim monuments in such gutted towns and cities as Foča, Goražde, Banja Luka, Mostar and Sarajevo. Important collections of Oriental manuscripts have been utterly destroyed. The very future of the entire Muslim community in this republic is wholly unclear. At the time of going to press, I do not know whether several Bosnian friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, whose names appear above are still alive.




Newport, Essex

July 1993



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